Marie Claire Trolls Fitness Bloggers and Causes Controversy

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I read a few fitness blogs as I've gotten back to running this year. I also follow their writers on twitter. As such, I saw talk of the Marie Claire fitness controversy today and wondered what the hub-bub was about. I was shocked to read a mean-spirited attack on six health bloggers.

Running ShoesThe article itself paints six fitness bloggers as food-obsessed, eating-disordered, overexerercisers who are endangering the lives of their readers simply by existing. Before you think that these women were writing blogs of thinspiration, you should probably read their rebuttals and their blogs. Thankfully, four of these (brave) women have already chosen to write their rebuttals. They all tackled the topic in their own ways, sharing their personal lives with readers again.

Tina of Carrots 'N' Cake chose to share what her blog has been about since its conception six months prior to her wedding. She showed us pictures of her wedding, her food and her life. And then she said the following:

In the 2,681 blog posts that I’ve written to date, I’ve never once claimed to be a perfect eater or healthy role model. I write about what works for me, which I’ve noted time and time again on my blog. I’m not an expert on anything, except my own life.

This is the kind of response you generally see on a blog after the author has been trolled. And, really, that's what I kind of see Marie Claire's post as: a grand-scale trolling.

Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point shared a heart-breaking story of bullying and how the actions of the magazine brought all of the emotions back to the surface. She then went on to provide a rebuttal for some of the "facts" presented in the "article."

I love how the reporter/magazine talks about me running 22.0 miles but fails to put it in context – that I was training for a marathon. You know, a hobby that hundreds of thousands of healthy people across the nation engage in. Did they mention that through this marathon, I raised $3,000 for cancer research with YOUR help? No. Also, I did not engage in “a light day of eating” after running 22.0 miles. As evidenced in this post, I ate nearly a loaf of French bread on the hood of my car after the run! And then I had an entire box of pasta…. and that was just for lunch!

As someone who just started running again after years off due to an injury, I am just as mad for Caitlin as she is for herself. I know hundreds of runners, online and off. Most of us are healthy individuals who enjoy the feeling of feet hitting the pavement.

Heather of Hangry Pants wrote a numbered rebuttal calling out the misinformation in the magazine's article. She acknowledges that healthy living blogs do have potential pitfalls and talked about how she shared that information with the journalist, but it was ignored.

There are very valid criticisms about healthy living blogging that were ignored or omitted in an effort to frame bloggers as mindless hordes of industry outsiders with no business writing about our personal experiences. Drummond was provided with my critical opinions on healthy living blog extremes, eating disorders, blogging responsibility and exercise obsession, yet no mention of my acknowledgement of these potential problems was brought to light. Instead, I was cast as clueless about my influence and responsibilities as a blogger, ignorant to any negatives of healthy living blogging.

She goes on to talk about her own foot-and-fitness issues with links as to how she has been open and honest about them in the past. There was no need for, as Heather called it, truth stretching. The information was there for the journalist, both in blog format and by what Heather offered up via email. Yet, it wasn't used.

Meghann of Meals and Miles shared her email exchanges with the journalist. She then hits at the meat and potatoes, pun intended, of what I think is wrong with this article.

I had to sit back and let it sink in. This wasn’t a friendly look into how to turn blogging into a ‘profitable venture’ this was an outright attack on all six of the bloggers who started the Healthy Living Summit! The big six? Please! We’re all normal girls who decided to come together to plan an event, not once did we think of ourselves as the ‘big six’ nor have we heard ourselves referred to as such.

The article takes everything good about our blogs and throws it down the toilet. What happened to being objective? What happened to telling both sides of the story? What happened to all the good we’ve done?

And she's right. It was an attack. A big fat troll attack from a traditional media outlet, making me wonder just how afraid are magazines and other news outlets of bloggers. It's not as if Marie Claire only focuses on the most healthy of things. On the "related articles" links on that very article, they have links to a whole body cleanse and their health and fitness page currently boasts "six surprising ways to lose weight" with a picture of a woman devouring a whole candy bar. Which outlet is doing less to help women reach their full potential?

Whatever the case, the article has the fitness blogosphere (and others) talking about some important topics. Perhaps I won't ever buy a copy of Marie Claire ever again, but I can join in the conversations about health and safety of women.

  • Hollaback Health agrees that the article was nasty, but encourages everyone to blog responsibly.

    5. Whether it was nice or whether it was fair it was something that needed to be said. It did. I know a lot of people will disagree with me here, but it did. We’ve started the discussion on eating disorders and “everything in moderation” on Hollaback, but I’ll be honest — we danced around it because we knew that we’d be crucified for making some of the same points that MC did. (And judging from how upset everyone is, we would have been.)

  • One Day at a Time had mixed feelings about the post, acknowledging that they can be triggering but talked about how they have helped her as well.

    i think the article does bring up an important point that healthy living blogs can be triggers for people with disordered eating. i know that personally reading these blogs has changed the way i view food 100%. i still eat “junk” compared to these girls, but for the most part, my everyday eating has been revamped for the better. i would love to say i started running and completed a half marathon, but that’s not the case. the blogs just made me so much more informed about nutrition and i am so thankful for them.

  • With a Side of Sneakers blogged about how, as an outsider, the blogs in question might seem not-so-healthy. She gives examples. And then she makes a very good point.

    As an outsider, I too, would say these blogs are contributing to disordered eating and promoting poor body image. Especially if those are the only posts I’ve read. But I’m lucky enough to actually know many of these girls the reporter is writing about. I shouldn’t really say writing. I should say smearing.

    If this is the article that needs to be written, it could’ve conveyed an equally emphatic message without names. Honestly, I think it could have more impact without names. Although now it will have huge impact because everybody that knows these bloggers is going to talk about it and well, any publicity is good publicity.

What are your thoughts on the Marie Claire debacle? Do you read the blogs in question? How do you think the situation could have been better handled?


Contributing Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land. She is a freelance writer and newspaper photographer.

Photo Credit: Josiah Mackenzie.

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